MURDER ON THE QUAI
By Cara Black
Publisher: Soho Crime (2016)
An Aimee Leduc Investigation (Book 16)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
How did Aimee Leduc become the woman she is today, a top-notch private detective dressed in vintage couture? In the sixteenth book in the series, Cara Black takes us back to the seminal events in Aimee’s professional development.
Paris: November 1989. Aimee Leduc is trying her best to get through med school, despite the resistance and hindrance of her professors and her predominantly male classmates. Female physicians are still a minority, and women have to work harder and endure constant harassment. To add insult to injury, she finds out in the most humiliating manner that her aristocratic boyfriend is getting engaged. Her father, Jean-Claude Leduc, who runs the Leduc Detective started by her grandfather, does not want her to follow in their footsteps, and she wants to comply, but things aren’t going well.
On November 8, the Berlin Wall comes down. The next night her father summons her to his office. A woman she does not recognize is pleading with him to find out who killed her elderly father. Elise Peltier, a distant cousin from Chambly-sur-Cher, is desperate, but Jean-Claude won’t be budged. He’s traveling to Berlin to recover secret files before the Stasi destroys them. Unbeknownst to Aimee, the files contain damning evidence against her mother, the American revolutionary who walked out on them when Aimee was eight years old.
The police have given up, disregarding the matchbook Elise found in her father’s pocket. The name Suzy and a phone number are written on it. Finally, Jean-Claude promises that he will try to find the mystery woman when he returns.
Aimee, who grew up around her father’s police colleagues, soaking in every detail, who often helped him at the detective agency, who is smart and tough, says she can do that. Her father forbids her to, but as soon as he’s gone she jumps into action. She does find Suzy, but she doesn’t stop there. She uncovers a web of secrets and lies whose roots go back to the war. There are execution-style murders of elderly men, rumors of Nazi gold, and the past that is not yet past.
She discovers she is a natural in detecting and crime solving, but the learning curve is brutal. She makes some potentially dangerous, even fatal, choices, but what doesn’t kill her does indeed make her stronger. When all is said and done, she follows her heart and her heritage to begin the path she was born to follow.
Along the way, she finds companions who will take the journey with her, including Rene, the dwarf with mad computer skills, Martine, a journalist, and Miles Davis, the stray her grandfather rescued one stormy night. The roots of Aimee’s love for couture are revealed when she scores her first Chanel jacket at a flea market. As in the later mysteries, Paris comes alive on the page as she roams the city. The smells, fresh bread, heady cheese, flowers and sewers, the people, from the aristos to the down-and-out, the beauty and history of the city, are vivid and real. MURDER ON THE QUAI is another fine novel in this excellent series. Highly recommended.
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